When Sandra “Sandy” Fitzpatrick Ford went to work for the Piedmont Housing Authority in 1961, there were only 36 units. Now, there are 211. Sandy was there when most of the units were added.
In the 1950s, Charles “Seward” Kerr was director of the housing authority. Sandy’s mother, who worked as a seamstress for many in town back then, sewed for and was friends with Kerr’s wife. One day, his wife mentioned to Sandy’s mother that an employee in her husband’s office was expecting a child and would be out of work for a while. Her husband wondered if Sandy wanted to fill in.
“I was thrilled to death,” Sandy, who was attending Jacksonville State University at the time, said. “I didn’t like college anyway. But I was scared. I’d never done anything like that before.”
During this time, Sandy also worked for Kerr in another capacity. He owned a record store he called the Record Room. When she started, it was above Meadows Drug Store (later Hunt’s). The PHA moved to Craig Avenue, where the Senior Citizen Center is currently located.
The previous secretary didn’t go back to work. She wanted to stay home with her new baby. Sandy’s job changed from temporary to permanent. It lasted 30 years, some of which she was assistant director. After Kerr retired, Sandy was given his position as the executive director.
She attended JSU at night for a while, but was by then married and expecting her first child. It was too much for the working, expectant Sandy, so she quit college for the second time.
“I kept falling asleep,” she said.
She retired from the housing authority when she was 50. She stayed busy with family for a few years, then realized she wanted to go back to work. Since 1995, she’s worked part-time at JSU in admissions.
“I enter data for recruiting,” Sandy said. “I love working there, and I love the students. I call them kids. They keep me young. They’re so sweet.”
Sandy was reared in the Piedmont Congregational Holiness Church on Hughes Street, where she is a Sunday school teacher and pianist. She took piano lessons when she was a child, but tired of it. She begged her mother to let her quit. Her mother finally gave in. When Sandy’s sister, Ginger, who is 9 years younger, wanted to quit taking piano lessons, Sandy pleaded with their mother to make her continue.
“I’m the bossy older sister,” Sandy said. “All kids, when they get a certain age, want to quit. She was in high school. I said, ‘Mama, don’t let her quit.’ Now she’s a piano teacher.’ ”
Sandy has been on the Piedmont Healthcare Board for the past eight years. She had been an active member of the Benevolence Center Board until a year ago, when she had a stroke. Now she’s not able to do some of the physical work, but she continues to volunteer.
Sandy likes to read and bake. She’s partial to Christian romance.
“If I’m bored, I bake,” she said. “I might put it in the freezer to be used at a later date, or carry to a shut-in. My mother was a fantastic baker. I really wanted to be like her. I’m still working at it.”
She lost both her parents, Rufus and Violet (White) Fitzpatrick, in 2004. Her mother died first. Her father followed her six months later.
“He worshiped the ground she walked on,” Sandy said.
Sandy and her three siblings grew up on Dailey Street. Her sister, and brother-in-law, Ginger and Rick Blythe, live in Piedmont. Rick pastors the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Alabama 9. Her brother, Carlton, lives in Brunswick, Ga., with his wife, Theresa. Carlton now owns the family home on Dailey Street where they moved to in 1943. Their brother, Ronald, and his wife, Sue, who live in Denver, were home recently. This is the first time the four have been together at the same time since 2008.
Sandy lost her daughter, Rhonda McFry, several years ago. Her son, Tony Ford, lives in Anniston. Her grandchildren are Matt and Derek. Her great-granddaughters, Anna and Emery, are 7. Anna and Emery, Sandy said, “are the love of my life.”
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GRANNY’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
3 c. sugar
1 c. butter Crisco
6 lg. eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour
¼ t. soda
8 oz. sour cream
1 t. vanilla flavoring
1 t. lemon flavoring
Mix soda and salt in with flour. Cream sugar and Crisco together. Add eggs, 2 at a time, beating after each. Alternate flour and sour cream. (Begin with flour and end with flour 4 times.) Add flavoring last. Pour in a large tube pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 ½ hour.
Sandy said she’s always been taught to sift the flour, soda and salt together. Over the years of practice, she’s learned that’s not important. The real trick is to beat and beat and beat.
GRANNY’S MAC AND CHEESE
Boil noodles with salt. Cook down to where there is still juice. Do not drain. Take off stove. Add salt and pepper. Add 1 stick margarine. Chop small box Velveeta cheese. Let melt in the hot noodles. Then pour cream until extra juice because it will dry out the longer it sits. Pour into Pyrex dish. Sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.
Since this is an old recipe that Sandy’s mother used for years, Sandy picked up her technique and guesses at how much noodles, cheese and other ingredients to use.
THE ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE
¾ cup butter Crisco (Sandy uses the sticks)
1 ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 T. milk (cream)
1 T. vanilla flavoring
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
¾ t. baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups pecan pieces
Combine Crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat until creamy. Add egg and beat. Combine flour, salt and soda.
Add to mixture and beat. Stir in chips and pecans with large wooden spoon. Drop large tablespoon of dough onto ungreased parchment paper about 3” apart. Bake at 375 degrees 8-10 minutes.
The secret to the cookie being “puffy” rather than flat is the chips and pecans. The recipe only calls for 1 cup each. Sandy uses 2 cups each.
MAMA FORD’S LEMON PIE
1 graham cracker pie crust
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 egg (separated)
Juice from 3 lemons
This was a favorite of all the Ford family, Sandy said. Her mother-in-law, Betty Ford, always had these lemon pies for special occasions and the grandchildren loved them. You can use this same recipe, but you’ll never get the exact wonderful taste that hers were, she added.
Somehing that Sandy does to all her graham crusts is melt together a small amount of margarine and sugar (probably 1 T. of each) and soak it into the crust before pouring filling over it.
OLD-FASHIONED HOMEMADE FUDGE
1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar
3 T. cocoa
½ cup milk (cream)
¼ cup white Karo syrup
Melt margarine in medium sauce pan. Add the other ingredients and let boil slowly for about 5 minutes. Remove from stove. Add 1 t. vanilla flavoring. Let cool. Stir occasionally just before it thickens enough to pour into pan. Add chopped pecans, optional. Spray or butter the pan before pouring fudge.
Sandy sometimes adds a “big gob” of peanut butter in when she adds the flavoring.